The Daily Dose: When it rains, it pours. The DRC battles COVID-19, measles, and Ebola outbreaks at one time

If you think things are bad where you are, just remember, things can always get harder. Just take a look at the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They’ve got a COVID-19 outbreak on top of a measles outbreak allon top of an Ebola outbreak. Rather than panic, they’ve taken their experiences and infrastructure and repurposed them to meet the challenge. Per Lancet Global Health, “Although the COVID-19 pandemic presents unique challenges that threaten the health, economy, and social fabric of DR Congo, several lessons learned from dealing with the devastating Ebola virus disease outbreaks have been invaluable and are guiding the ongoing COVID-19 public health response… The strong national commitment in DR Congo to the COVID-19 and Ebola virus disease epidemics provides hope that alignment of public health responses will prevent the high morbidity and mortality seen in South Africa.” The lesson? Keep fighting.

Microplastics are a massive environmental problem, particularly in the world’s waters. A team of researchers modeled the dynamics of microplastic pollution in order to better understand what happens and what may be done to slow the trend. Per Science, “To estimate the effectiveness of interventions to reduce plastic pollution, we modeled stocks and flows of municipal solid waste and four sources of microplastics through the global plastic system for five scenarios between 2016 and 2040. Implementing all feasible interventions reduced plastic pollution by 40% from 2016 rates and 78% relative to ‘business as usual’ in 2040. Even with immediate and concerted action, 710 million metric tons of plastic waste cumulatively entered aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.” It will take a very long and concerted effort to make a dent in this form of pollution, the long lasting effects of which have yet to play out completely.

Laboratories (and governments) around the world are racing to produce a COVID-19 vaccine in record time. The pace of going from the lab bench to phase 3 clinical trials has been breathtaking. It has been an unprecedented experiment in drug development. A STAT News article explores how it has taken place. “It’s difficult to associate anything with this pandemic with good fortune, but the fact that the culprit was a coronavirus — one that was strikingly similar to others that had previously leapt from animals to people — meant scientists could quickly rejigger vaccine projects in the works for those. It was almost like swapping a blue Lego for a red one in their assemblies.” It’s always to hear slightly positive news about the pandemic once in a while.

Plants. They’re all around us but, in truth, we still know so little about them. That’s strange considering the massive role they play in natural ecosystem and unnatural once’s (agricultural). One line of research that could pay immediate dividends in terms of agriculture is the role of hormones in adapting plants to changing environments. Per Scientific American, “The flexibility of these hormone networks is precisely what has made them so difficult to genetically modify or engineer to cope with changing climates, however. Most genetically modified crops that are on the market are made by adding a gene from bacteria to a plant’s genome—allowing it to resist an herbicide or insecticide, for example. And although the alternative, manipulating proteins, is relatively easy with new genome editing techniques, ‘you usually mess up the plants,’ says Eilon Shani, a plant biologist at Tel Aviv University.”

Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.

IMAGE SOURCE: Creative Commons

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